A line of tailors steal a nap during the lazy, shady hours. It’s quite a delight seeing those vintage Singers still in use.
And as a solitary machine goes “shik-shik-shik” in the background, the issue about Sabah’s fragile “social” fabric crops up again.
Interwoven in this tapestry is a generation of carefree children, who neither read nor write, and who each morning leave their homes in the settlements at Pulau Gaya and come ashore to the city’s waterfront seeking menial work – dishwashing, food preparation and packaging.
Is it fair that these children, innocent of any crime, be deprived of a promising future because of negligence by their hosts? To them a high-income economy and the New Economic Model are meaningless.
This is the tale of Sabah that has seen a population increase by a stupefying 301% in 30 years (1970-2000), a phenomenon that surely needs to be investigated closely.
Especially since neighbours Sarawak grew by 106%, and Brunei 157% in the same time-frame.
Said former Sabah senator and activist Dr Chong Eng Leong: “Sabah’s borders were deliberately kept porous. You could enter and leave it like a sieve.”
Chong believes that foreigners and the contentious Project IC are two of the biggest issues facing Sabah for over two decades.
Project IC, or more pointedly Project M, refers to the “allegation of systematic granting of citizenship to immigrants (whether illegal or legal) by giving them identity documents known as IC (identity card), and subsequently, MyKad” .
It is an alleged covert exercise with its roots in the early 1990s to alter the demographics of Sabah to make it more favourable to the rulinggovernment and certain political parties.
“Look, in those 30 years the Kadazan-Dusun-Murut community grew by 162% – a population growth that makes sense.
“But those classified as Malay grew by a staggering 1,552%. The federal government hasn’t given any solid explanation for this staggerring rise,” Chong said.
But despite the issue being common conversation in the warongs and kopitiams here and, to some degree, in the local media, investigations into Project IC never quite reached a satisfactory momentum nor conclusion.
Chong believes it’s because the evidence is damning – it shows up in the daily life of Sabah.